MAYNARD (SHARON) VS. KENTUCKY RETIREMENT SYSTEMSAnnotate this Case
RENDERED: SEPTEMBER 12, 2008; 2:00 P.M.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
APPEAL FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE THOMAS D. WINGATE, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 05-CI-01600
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BEFORE: ACREE AND CAPERTON, JUDGES; ROSENBLUM,1 SPECIAL
ACREE, JUDGE: Sharon Maynard appeals from the August 3, 2007, opinion and
order of the Franklin Circuit Court affirming a decision of the Kentucky
Retired Judge Paul W. Rosenblum sitting as Special Judge by assignment of the Chief Justice
pursuant to Section 110(5)(b) of the Kentucky Constitution and Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS)
Retirement Systems (Retirement Systems) denying Maynard disability retirement
benefits. We affirm.
Maynard was employed as a Deputy Clerk for the Lawrence County
Clerk’s Office for approximately twelve years from February 1990 through August
2002. Maynard’s position was considered sedentary to light in nature. She was
seated 75% of the time and had the option of alternating between standing, walking
and sitting. Her job duties included issuing licenses, recording documents, making
photocopies, and monitoring inventory.
In August 2002, Maynard applied for disability retirement benefits
pursuant to KRS 61.600 and was denied. In July 2004, she again applied for
disability retirement benefits based on a variety of conditions including
fibromyalgia, chest pain, migraine headaches, joint pain, blood pressure problems,
bladder and bowel problems, numbness and back pain. The Retirement Systems’
Medical Review Board denied Maynard’s application and she petitioned for an
administrative hearing. The hearing officer recommended Maynard’s application
be denied based on her finding that the objective medical evidence did not
establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Maynard was totally and
permanently incapacitated from her job duties as deputy clerk, nor was she likely
to remain incapacitated for a period of more than twelve months from her last date
of paid employment. Maynard filed exceptions to the hearing officer’s report and
recommended order. The Board of Trustees (Board) reviewed these exceptions, as
well as all evidence of record, and accepted the hearing officer’s report and
recommended order. Maynard appealed to the Franklin Circuit Court. The circuit
court affirmed the denial of disability retirement benefits. This appeal followed.
The crux of Maynard's appeal is that the Retirement System's original
decision incorrectly ignored overwhelming substantial medical evidence she had
provided in support of her claim. We disagree.
To trigger state disability retirement benefits, pursuant to KRS
61.600(3)(a)-(d), a claimant must offer “objective medical evidence by licensed
physicians” showing that since the last day of her paid state employment, she “has
been mentally or physically incapacitated to perform the job, or jobs of like duties,
from which [she] received [her] last paid employment.” Such incapacity must be
the result of bodily injury, mental illness, or disease, and must be deemed
permanent. Further, the incapacity cannot “result directly or indirectly from bodily
injury, mental illness, disease, or condition which pre-existed membership in the
system. . . .” A claimant for disability retirement benefits must prove she satisfies
all the foregoing statutory criteria to justify payment of benefits. See Energy
Regulatory Commission v. Kentucky Power Co., 605 S.W.2d 46 (Ky.App. 1980).
When a claimant is denied administrative relief, the question to be
decided on appeal is “whether the evidence was so overwhelming, upon
consideration of the entire record, as to have compelled a finding in [claimant's]
favor,” Wolf Creek Collieries v. Crum, 673 S.W.2d 735, 736 (Ky.App. 1984), and
whether the denial of the relief sought was arbitrary. Bourbon County Board of
Adjustment v. Currans, 873 S.W.2d 836, 838 (Ky.App. 1994).
In determining whether an agency's action was
arbitrary, the reviewing court should look at three
primary factors. The court should first determine
whether the agency acted within the constraints of its
statutory powers or whether it exceeded them. . . .
Second, the court should examine the agency's
procedures to see if a party to be affected by an
administrative order was afforded his procedural due
process. The individual must have been given an
opportunity to be heard. Finally, the reviewing court
must determine whether the agency's action is supported
by substantial evidence. . . . If any of these three tests are
failed, the reviewing court may find that the agency's
action was arbitrary.
Bowling v. Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Cabinet, 891 S.W.2d
406, 409 (Ky.App. 1995) (quoting Commonwealth, Transportation Cabinet v.
Cornell, 796 S.W.2d 591, 594 (Ky.App. 1990)).
In reviewing an administrative decision, the circuit court's role is not
to reinterpret or reconsider the merits of the claim. Kentucky Unemployment
Insurance Commission v. King, 657 S.W.2d 250, 251 (Ky.App. 1983); Kentucky
Board of Nursing v. Ward, 890 S.W.2d 641, 642 (Ky.App. 1994). Instead, the
circuit court must determine two things: are the findings of fact “supported by
substantial evidence of probative value” and has the administrative agency
“applied the correct rule of law to the facts so found.” Southern Bell Telephone &
Telegraph Co. v. Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, 437 S.W.2d
775, 778 (Ky. 1969) (citing Brown Hotel Co. v. Edwards, 365 S.W.2d 299 (Ky.
1962)). See also Kentucky Commission on Human Rights v. Fraser, 625 S.W.2d
852, 856 (Ky. 1981). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record to
support the agency's decision, the circuit court must defer to the agency, even if
there is conflicting evidence. Kentucky State Racing Commission v. Fuller, 481
S.W.2d 298, 308 (Ky. 1972) (citing Blankenship v. Lloyd Blankenship Coal Co.,
Inc., 463 S.W.2d 62 (Ky. 1970)).
We review an administrative agency's exercise of adjudicative
authority by applying KRS 13B.150. In reviewing the circuit court’s affirmance of
an administrative decision our standard is whether the circuit court’s findings are
clearly erroneous. Johnson v. Galen Health Care, Inc., 39 S.W.3d 828, 833
(Ky.App. 2001). See also Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 52.01.
Maynard argues that the evidence compels a finding that she is
entitled to disability retirement benefits based upon her numerous medical
conditions, particularly her fibromyalgia. We disagree.
As previously pointed out by the circuit court, Maynard had the
burden to prove her entitlement to disability benefits, and the standard of review is
whether the evidence compelled a different result. McManus v. Kentucky
Retirement Systems, 124 S.W.3d 454, 458 (Ky.App. 2004). This Court must affirm
the board “whenever the claimant's evidence is not sufficiently persuasive to
require a favorable finding as a matter of law.” Dawson v. Driver, 420 S.W.2d
553, 555 (Ky. 1967).
After a thorough review of the record we find that there was certainly
evidence of Maynard's many health issues. However, there was also evidence that
some of her symptoms were easily treatable and that she was able, physically and
mentally, to carry on with the activities of her daily life. Taking into account all of
the evidence within the record before us, we are unable to conclude that a different
outcome was compelled.
Finally, Maynard notes that the Retirement Systems should have
given credence to the determination made by the Social Security Administration,
which found her condition to be “severe” under their standards. We note that
pursuant to 105 Kentucky Administrative Regulations (KAR) 1:210 § 8(1), a
hearing officer may allow a claimant to introduce evidence of Social Security
Administration awards. However, “[t]he hearing officer shall consider only
objective medical records contained within the determination and shall not
consider vocational factors or be bound by factual or legal findings of other state or
federal agencies.” 105 KAR 1:210 § 8(2). Thus, Maynard's argument in this
regard is without merit.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Franklin Circuit Court
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
Michael T. Hogan
Suleiman O. Oko-ogua